What a day.
We mailed off the blankets and coats to One Spirit today. Then we headed to the local Animal Shelter to see if any dogs would fit in with our current pack.
Yes, yes. We are starting the process of pack building once more. Not without some trepidation, I might add. It has been less than a year since the deaths of Rascal and Shoba (9 and 8 months respectively... but who's counting?) And neither of us can talk about those two without getting a little teary. And The Wife pointed out, correctly I think, that any dog we get I will probably compare on some level to Shoba. But then, Shoba was, in my head at least, the greatest dog of all time.
When I was a boy, we had three dogs. Tiger, Chip and Biz. All three were terrific. I still miss each of those three dogs from time to time. But they were 'family dogs'. Much like Rascal and Ben, and any other dog we ever get from here on will be. Shoba was my dog when I was really on my own. She and I had adventures that can never be repeated. We shared some tough times, like when we were living in Wisconsin and had just enough money for a few weeks for either food or heating fuel. Well, I opted for food. We piled blankets on my bed and she willingly slept under them, a rare thing for her. But February in Wisconsin gets pretty dang cold! We did have an electric heater, but that stayed on the pipes to avoid having them freeze.
The challenge now is to find another dog that has the same gentle temperament and loving devotion to the whole pack as Shoba and Rascal did. They were both so very good with the Boyo, and ran the spectrum from tolerating his attention to loving it. A new dog would have two kids to deal with. A new dog will also have to get along with Ben.
In Ben's younger years, I think this might have been a problem. He's a Kai mix, and as such highly energetic and a bit aggressive. But the years he spent with Shoba and Rascal have changed him, and he has become a very good dog. Even better since those two died.
A new dog will have many rules to learn, but I'm no stranger to dog training. We used to foster dogs, and I would give the 'rougher' dogs some training before they found new homes so they would be a bit more adoptable.
I'm sure I'm rambling a bit here. But it's a pretty big decision to be open to a new pack member. It's also a new experience to actually be looking for one, as all of the dogs in my adult life have pretty much just shown up and adopted us.
As we perused http://www.petfinder.com/, we found three that seemed interesting.
This is Snowflake. (A name that would most definitely change if she came home with us. Snowflake is a cat's name. Mainly because cat's don't come when they are called anyway, at least not to me.)
You may notice a striking resemblance to Shoba. In a photo-negative sort of way. Shoba paved the way for Shepherds for us, and we are interested in what she is like in real life. Her description reads like how I would describe Shoba. The drawbacks to this dog would be that perhaps she is too much like Shoba, and I would miss my Shoba even more with the constant reminder around. The Benefits of a dog like this would be, if she is like Shoba in temperament, I cannot think of a better dog for the kids as they grow up.
Next up is Buster. He's a Kai dog like Ben. In fact, his adoption profile reads as if he were Ben! The only difference is that Buster apparently likes kids. Unlike Ben, who gently tolerates them. So Buster might actually like to snuggle up to the Boyo. Buster is still young, so dominance would be no real problem. Besides, I'm the Alpha Male here, and all of my dogs have known their order. The drawback to this guy is that I wouldn't trust him for letting the Boyo walk him. Ben is already set for the Iditerod, I think having two might be quite the handful. The plus side is that since one big reason for getting another dog would be so that Ben has a buddy, Buster would make the perfect pal. We also have really appreciated Ben's protective nature. Not a sound goes by outside without him noticing, and I feel almost completely at ease working night shifts knowing that Ben is on duty guarding the house, and most importantly my wife and kids. Any intruder would be in serious hurt if they tangled with Ben. And a Ben/Buster duo would just about guarantee a nightmare for a burglar.
Lastly, there is Tobias. He doesn't fit any of our previous dog conceptions. He's not black, not full grown, not looking like any other dog we've had. Seems weird to think of having a puppy to work with. A dog that we know the history of. But his dossier states that he's very smart and readily trainable. Plus, he's a cutie! Downside - puppies require more attention to training in the outset, and with Sweet Pea being so little, I'd be concerned about rough housing. Shouldn't be a problem with a little common sense parenting. Also, Ben might initially see him as more of a chew toy than a buddy. :) Upside - He'd be able to grow up around the kids, especially the Boyo, who could handle the leash, and do some serious bonding. Also, while the training might be a little tougher, he's a blank slate, and thus would be a great dog eventually!
So, in our initial search, we find three potential additions. We are making no immediate decisions, just testing the waters. But I'm sure the right dog is out there somewhere. Maybe it's one of these three. We'll find each other. And I'll let you know when that happens. I know that no dog could ever replace those we lost, and that any dog that chooses us will have a personality all it's own. Losing a dog like Shoba, or Rascal, Biz, Chip, Tiger...even Ben when the time comes, is never an easy thing. It's the worst part of pet ownership. But the years of affection and fun that come with dogs more than make up for it. I have a lifetime of memories with all of 'my' dogs. And they made me a better person. I want my kids to have those memories too.